Key Democrat Opposes Green Card Fix Without Broader Measure (1)

  • Menendez wants legal status for undocumented immigrants
  • Senate rulekeeper rejects Democrats’ latest proposal

(Adds Sen. Dick Durbin comment in paragraphs 5-6.)

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A key Democratic senator says he won’t support efforts to streamline legal immigration unless lawmakers also pursue a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) staked out that position Wednesday after the Senate parliamentarian rejected Democrats’ latest effort to include broad immigration measures in a sweeping tax and social spending package. Democrats want legal status for millions of essential workers and people who were brought to the U.S. as children.

Democrats’ Drive for Immigration Overhaul Again Rejected

“Other immigration things, especially for businesses, that’s not going to happen if we’re not going to have any pathway to some form of status adjustment for the undocumented,” Menendez told reporters.

Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/Bloomberg
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) speaks during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on Sept. 28, 2021.

“I won’t support that because we’re not going to take care of business and not take care of the 11 million in some way,” Menendez said.

It’s unclear how broadly his position is shared by other Senate Democrats, but Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), leader of the Judiciary Committee and a lead negotiator on immigration, offered support Wednesday.

“Bob and I have the same goal, which is to get as many people as possible on a path to citizenship, and we’re going to keep working toward that goal,” he said in a hallway interview.

House Democrats advanced language two weeks ago that would address both issues — offering a path to legalization for undocumented people and addressing visa processing backlogs. The parliamentarian’s rulings rejected proposals to provide legal status to those without it, but didn’t address provisions to roll over green cards from year to year, allowing for additional visas to be issued following years when numerical caps aren’t reached.

Immigration Alternatives Lined Up if Democrats’ ‘Plan B’ Fails

Lawmakers are still weighing several alternatives on immigration. That could include protections from deportation or work authorization, Esther Olavarria, deputy director for immigration at the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, said Tuesday.

“We are having those conversations now,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) said in a hallway interview. “It’s frustrating. I’m not giving up.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at; Bennett Roth at

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